Thursday, October 18, 2012

Morning Walks on the Broad

The Norfolk Broads are a series of rivers and lakes--some more easily navigable than others--that interlace the county of Norfolk. In some areas they are popular boating venues: little villages have marinas with boats for hire, for day tours and weekend rentals. At the docks swans aggressively pan for bread handouts, pushing away the ducks.

Here at the University of East Anglia we are fortunate to be located on the River Yare, with a Broad (lake) in our back yard. Literally. The water brings gulls and ducks to us, and we can sometimes see the white forms of the swans gliding past the openings in the trees that surround the lake. My favorite view is to watch in the afternoon as the sun sets down the length of the east-west Broad, and the gold highlights the white of the gulls as they fly back and forth above the water, flashing among the trees. 

It has been more than thirty years since I've lived near woods and wetlands, and for me they are old friends dearly missed. I can't get enough of them. Here the woods are heavier than I've seen even in the Hudson Valley, and the trees are allowed to grow over city streets, country roads and paths, forming deeply tangled tunnels that we pass under. Overgrown hedges fifteen feet high are trimmed solid, even with the street, dense green walls. Graham has learned to drive slowly through the tree-tunnels when we come upon them, because I sit in the passenger seat and just breathe, "This is so beautiful!" I feel as though we're in an illustration from a fairy tale. Suddenly, the descriptions from all the literature I've read over the last fifty years makes sense. They weren't making that scenery up, it really exists, here, still. The shapes of the trees are convoluted, fantastical.

Our favorite morning walk is to set off across the lawn to the Broad, which has a dirt path surrounding most of it, with a wooden boardwalk where the wetlands are too dampish for a path. It is a favorite spot for walkers, joggers, people with their dogs, and families on weekends.

I am enjoying the progress of autumn, seeing the grasses go to seed, the leaves begin to turn. I love the color of berries against the leaves, the way that ivies completely envelop the trees, the leaves against the chocolate brown dirt, the forms floating on the pond among the duckweed.

I enjoy looking for leaves to bring home, and acorns. I stop to listen to birds, watch butterflies, to look with fascination at a spider-web city built in some tall grasses at the edge of the lake, silvered by dew. Graham has gotten used to me bringing my camera on a walk, that I stop every few feet to take more photographs. While he looks for herons by the nest at the far end of the wetland, I'm caught in the detail of a fungus, or the patterns in wood grain of a fallen tree, the way moss grows on the tree trunks. I'm a detail person. The shapes, the colors, the light and shadow. It's as if I am seeing these things for the first time, and I'm so afraid that when we leave this place that I've come to love so deeply, I will forget some wonderful tiny detail.

Come take a look at my pictures from our walks around the Broad.

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